December 29, 2002
Santiago Calatrava, the great architect/engineer from Valencia, Spain, designed this station with a look that evokes and perhaps surpasses the grand image of train travel in the old days. It is the new transportation hub of Lisbon, as it is a connection point for the vast networks of trains, buses, and metro. As the end station of the fairly new red Oriente line on the metro, the Oriente Station is also the gateway to the Centro Comercial Vasco da Gama (shopping center) and the Parque das Nacoes (former Expo '98 site). You can access the Vasco da Gama via a pair of pedestrian skybridges, which sway gently as crowds walk across them.
The elevated levels of the structural "tree" awnings of the station (hovering over the long-distance train platform) are memorably exciting in the sun or when dramatically illuminated at night. The roof shelters of the white steel elements and the folded glass surfaces are akin to a string of faceted diamonds. Be sure to look at the interesting overall outline of the tops when you are away from the station. The main train station is also connected to auxiliary areas like a bus terminal and parking lots for cars.
The above-ground levels range from very nice to brilliant, but as a whole the Oriente may not be Calatrava's most aesthetically satisfying project. The concrete halls in the belly of the station are dimly illuminated and have been compared to a cave, albeit a very nice cave with ribbed concrete archways reminiscent of those at his earlier Stadelhofen station in Zurich. Perhaps the least successful parts of the design are the ticket booths and signage in the station, which seem to be a bit scattered. Some walkways also appear quite dark, so some people may be concerned with safety and security issues here. Other areas appear more festive, as there are many vendors occupying hallways during the Christmas holidays. There is a Sunday market held in one of the lower levels of the station; I wandered by one evening and there were many sellers peddling treasure troves of postage stamps.
From journal Bill in Portugal - LISBON